Hamletstates, “that guilty creatures sitting at a play / Have by the verycunning of the scene / Been struck so to the soul” (2.2.508-510), which similarlycaptures what happens to the prince after watching the First Player’s captivatingspeech about Hecuba. The actor’s performance prompts Hamlet to engage in a dramaticmonologue filled with not only self-criticism, but also intense verbal abuse, allof which comes into play after he begins with, “Now I am alone”(2.2.468). Thus, there is a barrier between the traditional narrative of fulfillingfamily honour and of being “prompted to .
.. revenge by heaven andhell” (2.
2.503) and Hamlet’s narrative of emotional and moral struggles. Althougha short theatrical act causes Hamlet to have a disturbing flow of thoughts throughself-inflicted insults, it paradoxically leads him to instead use the theatreas a means of relieving his uncertainty. This particular passage, as a result, demonstratesthat the soliloquy becomes an isolated space where Hamlet can freely deliver hismost authentic performance of himself.
While in solitude, Hamlet expresseshis highly negative self-reflection, which sheds light on his fragmented stateas both “the son of a dear murdered” (2.2.502) and a man of interiority.This tension brings him to yell out, “Oh, what a rogue and peasant slaveam I!” (2.2.469), and even later in the monologue when he then says, “Why,what an ass am I!” (2.2.501).
These two explicit lines show all thetroubled feelings he has as a result of straddling the line between carryingout his uncle’s murder and “catching the conscience of the King”(2.2.524). The inverted syntax, or in other words, the placement of”am” and “I” mirror his inner torment and the exclamationsaccentuate his sudden outbursts of anger and frustration. In also callinghimself a “peasant slave” (2.2.469), an “ass” (2.
2.501) anda “pigeon-livered” (2.2.496) man who “lacks gall”(2.2.496), Hamlet’s choice of diction draws attention to the weak and demeaningimage he has of himself, placing emphasis on his obvious disappointment. His viewthat he is beneath what is expected of him pierces through the low-class andanimalistic descriptors he uses.
His words demonstrate the yearning to be aspassionate for revenge as the First Player was when he powerfully captured theraw emotion of Hecuba’s grief by having, as Hamlet mentions, his “visagewanned” (2.2.473), “a broken voice” (2.2.475) and”tears in his eyes” (2.
2.474). Unlike the player, he by contrast lacksthe same theatrical passion the First Player maintains and verbally abuses himas punishment.
This fragmented state is later enhanced when he utters out thesimile, “Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, / Must like a whoreunpack my heart with words / And fall a-cursing like a very drab, / A stallion!Fie upon’t, foh!” (2.2.503-506). The progression of the comparison from”whore” (2.2.504) to “stallion” (2.2.506) and thefast-paced rhythm of these lines highlight the fast-paced rhythm of his growingnegative self-judgment in the soliloquy.
In addition, his series of rhetoricalquestions place emphasis on his growing uncertainty, which he shows whensaying: “Who calls me villain, breaks my pate across, / Plucks off my beardand blows it in my face” (2.2.491-492). At the same time, Hamlet appearsto have a lack of confidence in his capabilities, violently symbolized throughthe breaking of his “pate”(2.2.
491) and the plucking of his”beard” (2.2.492). As a result, the abusive connotations of his rhetoricalquestions and his self-comparisons together express his traumatized mentalityand his state of being out of sync with the narrative of duty fulfillment and avenginghis father’s death. However, since the soliloquy givesHamlet some creative space, his progressive verbal abuse becomes themetaphorical backbone that gives him a slight bit of certainty. After mumbling,”Hmm—I have heard” (2.
2.507), Hamlet switches the soliloquy’s focusfrom a series of descriptors, such as “Am I a coward?” (2.2.490), toa sound plan of seeing whether or not Claudius is truly guilty.
The soliloquyis structured that, in this part of the monologue, Hamlet becomes more sure ofhimself and his position in relation to what is happening, which hedemonstrates with his change in tone when he says, “I’ll have theseplayers / Play something like the murder of my father / Before mine uncle. I’llobserve his looks; / I’ll tent him to the quick” (2.2.
513-516). Thecontraction of “I” and “will” becomes the way in which heasserts his determination to see whether or not “the spirit that he hasseen / may be a dev’l” (2.2.
517-518). In repeatedly saying that he will, Hamlet, in a way, seems to finallycommit to a plan and motivate himself to act on what he states — something thathas troubled him the moment he witnessed the First Player’s successfulrendition of Hecuba. This passage further places theatre and the concept ofrevenge in conversation when Hamlet shows his ability to be visionary. Anexample of this occurs when he personifies the act of murder, saying,”though it have no tongue, will speak / With most miraculous organ”(2.2.512-513). By bringing abstract thoughts to life, Hamlet becomes a kind ofplay master or a creative artist, twisting his imagination and words, so thathe can successfully portray his role as a son of a murdered king.
Hamlet showcaseshis dramatic ability through his variety in language, away from the discourseof revenge that dominates around him and, instead, plans to stage theresolution to his doubt. Hamlet’s soliloquy becomes,essentially, a place of refuge for expressing his profound and innermost thoughts.It gives him the luxury to criticize himself as well as devise a plan to resolvehis conflicted thoughts more confidently, which he is unable to do when facedwith other characters in the play. This stream of consciousness-like monologue,therefore, highlights the duality of Hamlet’s interiority and theatricality, andhow this tension prevents yet urges him to be the true “son of a dearmurdered” king (2.2.502).